Monday, July 27, 2015

...and a miracle occurred.

I have a Lexmark S515 printer/scanner, pretty good at the scanning part though it does occasionally eat a page, an ink hog, as most inkjets are, but a decent printer otherwise -- or it was, till I started getting error messages that there was something wrong with the printhead, and that function quit working.

I looked up the error message and followed the manual's cleaning instructions. Nope. I Googled and discovered this model has had a widespread problem with its printhead. The recommended solution was to download and install a firmware fix. Downloaded, installed. Nope. Same error message, but at least I could hit the "OK" button to dismiss it and the scanning function would still work.

In desperation, I looked for a replacement printhead. None available from Lexmark since this model has been discontinued, but I did find some aftermarket parts online. I knew even as I ordered a new printhead that this would probably end in tears, but dammit! I had, of course, just bought several new ink cartridges for the thing just before it went wonky on me, so what the hell.

The replacement printhead arrived. I transferred the ink cartridges to it, noting that they seemed somewhat looser in their wee slots than in the original, then installed the printhead.

Yikes! Never mind getting an error message that there's a problem, see instructions; now, with a despairing screek, the printhead carriage jammed in place and I got a new message that the printhead can't move at all. Well, duh, I noticed that. Not to mention, now the whole thing seized up and nothing on the machine would function. Sigh. I took out the dud, stuck the cartridges back in the old printhead, and reinstalled it. Still got the first error message, but at least I could dismiss it with an "OK" and the scanner would work again.

So we went on, my scanner/not-printer and I, turning it on each day, getting and dismissing the same error message and scanning with it -- until today. Today, as it warmed up, it made a lot of unfamiliar noises that went on and on beyond the usual warmup time. And what's this message? "Aligning the printhead - paper may move in and out - do not turn off printer"? Wait, what? And! Paper fed into it. And!! It did indeed move in and out. And!!! It printed. It printed! All those little rows of boxes, in black, in color!

Well, in fact, it cycled twice through its alignment dance, then rested, done. Could it be? Could it have healed itself? I set up a draft and asked it to print one page -- just one page, baby, can you do it? YES! I told it to print the other 107 pages, and away it went. The print was a bit defective for the first 40 or so pages, then it paused, made odd noises (cleaning its nozzles, perhaps?), and when it resumed the print was perfect.

I was, and still am, gobsmacked. Machines just don't get better on their own. But this one did! Delayed-onset firmware fix? A kindly gremlin passing by? Dunno, but I'll take my miracles where I can find them, you betcha.

Of course, now I'm afraid to turn it off.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

So proud American patriots are taking up arms to stand guard outside recruiting offices, defending them against dastardly attacks. What could possibly go wrong?


Methinks if somebody's looking to light up another recruiting office and sees one of these guys out front, that'll be his first target, taken by surprise and most likely blown out of the way before Our Hero can react heroically, adrenaline jag spurting through him as he pumps bullets in the general direction of the attacker.

Not that these guys are going to last more than a handful of weeks before the waning adulation/attention of passerbys and growing boredom of it all thins their ranks to oblivion. For damn sure ain't nobody gonna be out there in the north in January.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Still More Fun With Technology

Getting used to...

New monitor on my elderly XP. Its original monitor, a Samsung, had begun developing a tiny black patch in the upper left of the screen -- just a few pixels' worth at first, but it slowly kept sending out tendrils of oblivion.

Now, I don't use that computer for much these days, not since Microsoft stopped supporting XP and I took it offline, but it does still serve a few functions I prefer to do on it rather than the Win7 desktop or laptops. So I looked around for a reasonably inexpensive but still reliable monitor, found an Acer, and bought it.

The installation of the new monitor went about as well as could be expected -- minimal instructions (in 2-point type) didn't mention loading the setup disk BEFORE connecting things and turning on the tower -- and after some invective-laced moments I got the mouse to work ("Why aren't you working? Why isn't the cursor moving? What the ^U*&%R&*Y&&*^$ is wrong with..." [turns over wireless mouse; looks at on/off switch] "Oh." *click*) and there it was, all my usual icons, the usual photo for the background.

All stretched waaaaaaaaaaaaaay sideways. And teensy tiny icons.

Well, yeh -- the XP is vintage 2004 and the old monitor had the classic CRT aspect ratio. This new one is way wider. Some fumbling about in the Control Panel adjusted the size of icons, but what about the photo? I tried a different one -- same result. I tried editing it, unlocking the aspect ratio and saving it compressed -- still didn't look right. Finally I yanked the screen resolution slider indicator from its old place near the left all the way over to the right -- and voila! Now the same uncompressed photo looked okay. (Just cropped a new photo for the wider aspect ratio, and it too looks fine. Wonderful clarity, color and detail, in fact.)

And then, of course, I had to reset font size for the icons again. And every document I open needs tweaking. Some differences I'll just have to get used to. But it sure is bright and crisp-looking.

And no more little black spider of oblivion creeping out of the upper left corner.

Here, by the way, is the new desktop photo for the new monitor:

Sunday, July 5, 2015


My sister sent me an old, old photo, from back before I was born, way back from 1939. It’s a group of people sitting in front of the lakeside end of a small vacation cabin in Lake Shore Park on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Out of the picture, a dozen or so feet in front of them, would be a hardpacked dirt road running along the shoreline, the bed of a railroad that used to run there in the 19th century. To their left would be a sandy parking area that would hold maybe five cars; just beyond that, and among the pine trees on the land sloping gently upwards behind the cabin, would be scattered more campsites, with tiny two-room cabins and platforms for tents. The other photo gives you a good idea of what the park in general would have looked like in that era – small rental cabins interspersed with cabins and tents owned by folks who rented the plots from the park’s owners. Water was piped to campsites but there were no sewer facilities; everybody used centrally located outhouse blocks. There was a central Pavilion with a small general store and a dance hall, sandy beaches to swim from, big granite boulders to dive off of, woods behind the campsites for children to explore, a tremendous view across the broadest part of the lake to the White Mountains towering over the farther shore. People came back year after year; they sent the wives and children up from Massachusetts to stay for the summer and the husbands would come up for weekends and their two weeks of vacation in July or August. It was a helluva drive in the days before the interstate highways, but it was worth it.

That’s pretty much how it still was when I was a kid growing up in the ‘50’s – maybe some upgrades to infrastructure, permanent people buying what had been daily/weekly rental cabins, more cabins and fewer tents, even in the Tent City part of the park, but still those central outhouses (with plumbing, not pits, by then, though), still a close-knit community, and still a low-key paradise for kids to run wild in.

The man on the far left is my Grampa Graf; Gramma is in the middle; the man second from the right is my father, though that’s not my mother leaning against him; that’s dad’s “date of the week”, we’re told. Observe the little path paralleling the cabin where their feet rest; it plays a role in the story here.

My parents would go up to the lake every summer with us kids in the traditional fashion I’ve described above. Eventually they were able to buy the cabin directly behind this one for our own family, but in the early years we stayed with Grampa and Gramma, somehow cramming four adults and, over time, four children into a two-room cabin with an alcove-sized room for my grandparents’ bedroom. There were two sets of bunk beds in the rear room where we kids were deposited; in the summer I’m thinking of now, my sister, the baby of the family, was an infant, and her crib was placed against the front wall of the cabin, under that big picture window.

Good weather days at the lake were glorious, but thunderstorms that roared across the width of the lake from the mountains could be terrifying in their power by the time they slammed into the park. One such monster struck one night after we’d all gone to bed.

It was a furious storm with lots of lightning strikes. One bolt hit a towering old pine tree close to a cabin down the shore road from us, Pavilion-direction, just past the parking area. The people inside managed to get out just before the pine toppled over and smashed down through the middle of their cabin, destroying it, on an arc of doom toward the Graf cabin.

The tree trunk hammered into the ground directly in front of our cabin, straight into that clear area where those people in the photo have their feet, perfectly perpendicular to the wall. It missed hitting the cabin front by inches. The whole structure leaped off its supports from the shock of the impact (the tree was at least two feet in diameter!) and woke everybody up. Neighbors from other cabins rushed through the wind and torrenting rain to see if everybody was okay, took in the folks whose cabin was destroyed and offered to take us in too, even though our cabin was still standing. I can’t recall whether we went with them or whether the Graf adults, after checking the cabin’s structural stability, decided it was safe to stay there.

The scene the next morning was appalling: The broken stump of the great pine, the crushed cabin it fell through, its end walls sagging inward over the havoc, and the massive trunk lying from the ruins beeline to and across the front of our cabin, its heavy branches ramming into the underbrush a short way beyond. I shudder to think what would have happened to our cabin if the trunk hadn’t been bare of branches for the first 50 or so feet.

I’m 66 years old now, and must have been about five or six when it happened. I still get that “Holy cow!” feeling whenever I’m reminded of this – reminded, say, by an old photo of happy people sitting with their feet in the path of future near-doom.


Sent a somewhat shorter version of the story off to my siblings and got this response from my older brother, whose memory is probably better than mine where the stories conflict:

Great story and told much better than this but here is how I recall those events. I am adding the Penny’s back into this string as I will add some “history” as I recall that goes to their story and questions.

First the pic shows the camp basically unpainted, the many years later when we started, as kids, going it was painted and there was a bit of a wood deck on front where the folks were sitting. As I recall the story Laura told it was during the week as no Dads were there, many left for work during the week to return on weekends. I think it was Grandma, Mom and the 4 of us. No one could have slept through that storm, perhaps the most impressive T storm of my life. We ran about the cabin looking out the windows. A lightning bolt hit a very large tall tree that was just to the far side of the camp directly across from the Graf camp. Then great commotion as many adults ran about yelling, it was decided that that camp had to be abandoned as the tree would surely fall damaging the camp. But there were many that thought it would fall in another direction towards the parking area so all cars had to be moved. Keep in mind time is passing rapidly but the tree was still standing. Someone came to get Mom to come move her car and she ran out with the keys leaving us with Grandma.

Here comes a side note of history related to the Penny’s note. At that time there was no parking between Graf camp and this other camp (can’t remember their name) it was a badminton court with rows of raspberry bush’s down both sides. No one could park there because under the sandy court was actually the septic field for the old outhouse up behind the camps. It was surrounded by several well carved and painted totem poles. These were all made by our uncle Harris (the dentist) and grandpas Chris Craft boat was also called the totem and had a miniature totem pole carved by Harris that would be displayed in the boats rear flag holder when out for a ride. I don’t know which came first the totem poles or the boat name.

So the cars were parked much further away than now, about the area of the road going up to Railroad.

Mom left and shortly after much yelling and screaming as we were looking out the windows, the tree was coming down right for us! Grandma yelled and pushed, I mean pushed all of us into the back of camp bed room. Much crash and bag sounds and yes the camp did jump. We came from the back to get out with folks rushing towards the camp we meet as we came out the door including a Mom that was a bit upset. No injuries to anyone.

My picture of what happened - the tree more like three feet in dia. and perhaps 600 feet tall fell through the camp next door, in the first ten feet of the cabin and all commented on right through the door almost as it had planned to open the door, across the space between the camps and brushed down the front of the Graf camp. I recall branches all over the front to the point you almost could not see out the windows and it broke the eves off the front but no other damage. A great story either way.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The perversity of cats, part 2,644.782.37

Right after breakfast, Peanut wants, nay, demands fresh water in a clean bowl. Lately Pumpkin has also developed a desire for same. Since I'm maintaining water for six felines loose in the house (plus Teddy's little bowl in his cage kingdom) I keep two big dog-size bowls in the kitchen and tend to them right after I clean the breakfast food bowls. Peanut waits impatiently a yard or two away; Pumpkin lurks just beyond him.

Finally! I put the bowls down -- both at once rather than one then the other, since there are two thirsty little souls to satisfy. They pad to the bowls, sniff to be sure it's to their liking, then....

Two bowls, boys! TWO! What are you...?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Just a few more pages....

So yesterday was busy, workwise. Bookwork and billing consumed the morning. The afternoon and evening I spent proofreading the usual more or less dreary sludge of deposition transcripts. They were all short-deadline stuff and I completed the last one around 1:30 a.m. -- a bit of a late night even for this night owl.

Then thought: But before I go to bed, let me just read for half an hour just for pleasure. I'm well into Lois McMaster Bujold's "Memory"; let's do it.

...and I finished the book at quarter of 5:00.

Now I have one 160-pager I need to get out by early/midafternoon. Then I should take a nap.

Or start the next book in the series.